Skip to main content

Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

See other formats

ALEXANDER YON  HTJMBOLBT.                   67
The ride 011 the river Cassiquiare was much incom-
moded by mosquitoes, whose numbers increased with
the distance from the black water (Rio Negro); he
only found  miserable  Christian  settlements   on  the
eastern and almost uninhabited western shore,, and
the  natives he met  consumed the   indigenous   ants
with the same pleasure as the ISTew Zealanders their
spiders.    But   a  still   more   dreadful   immorality he
found in the custom prevalent here of eating human
%eings; a few years before Hurnboldt's arrival, a native
alkalde had eaten one of his wives, after he had first
fattened her with the greatest care.    The reproaches
of the Europeans to these Indians on their abominable
customs were entirely fruitless.,  and Humboldt says
that it is with them, just as with us in civilized Eu-
rope,, if a Brahmin from the Ganges were to reproach
us for eating animal food.    Indeed, Humboldt tra-
velled here among Indian tribes who considered each
other as totally different "beings,  and who believed
themselves as jxistified in killing each other as the
wild jaguars in the woods.    Although Humboldt was
already accustomed to the sight of a luxurious tropical
nature,   he nevertheless  felt  surprised   as  he sailed
further on this broad, impetuous, incommodious river
Cassiquiare, and made various vain attempts to land,
because the shores were impenetrably overgrown with
foliage and creeping plants.    Though the travellers*
hands were thickly swollen with insect bites, they had
to take an axe to make the wajr to a resting-place,
because the rain did not permit them to remain in
the boat at night; and while on the sea one often
complains of want of drinking water, here the tra-
vellers suffered from, a want of firewood in the midst
of the forests, as the sappy wood would not take fire.
Humboldt calls the passage of the Cassiquiare the
most oppressive of the whole American journey.
At last, after many privations, which the scientific
jgseal to behold the celebrated bifurcation of the Ori-
nocco easily overcame, Humboldt and his companions
again reached the bed of the Orinocoo stream on the
w   9